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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys...My husband has been telling me that I needed to find a cool cichlid forum for a few weeks now...so here I am! Around December I decided to convert my long time community tank to Mbuna Africans. I had the help of a LFS as I adjusted my pH up a bit and got the tank ready for them. I started with 9 fish in a 29 gallon tank. All was going very well at this point in time. My husband decided not to use a 60 gal tank that we had purchased to start a salt aquarium, and so it became my new cichlid home. I got them transfered over and happy and healthy for a month or better. Then I added a few new fish from one of the big chain pet stores and started a complete tank collapse. All of the fish in the tank including my 9 originals died except one, plus all the new ones that I added. When they died, they had a slight discoloration to their bodies, starting with the dorsal (I think, the one on the back of the fish) fin. Then they would start sitting on the bottom of the tank and breathing really fast. I was told by the LFS that it sounded like a fungal infection and I started dosing with Melafix. I did a full round of Melafix treatment, yet still the fish died. Since completing the treatment (approximately 3 weeks ago) I have done two 20 gallon water changes. The one remaining cichlid and the catfish seem to be doing fine....

Now the questions... What steps do I need to take to make sure that my tank is healthy enough to begin adding new fish? Should I do some sort of treatment to kill and residual "funk" that is in my tank? The Melafix really didn't seem to do much! It really upsets me to have complete meltdowns in the tank like this, so what ever I need to do now to make sure everything is healthy is much preferable to going through another fish catastrophe!

On a completely different note...but since I may have to do a complete rebuild anyway, I thought I would ask. My substrate is black "Tahitian moon" sand, and I love the look it gives me in my tank, but it develops a lot of buildup on it. In the past I have had small gravel substrate and I didn't see this kind of thing. Today I did a large water change and sucked a bunch of junk up off the bottom, but by the time I added the new water and things settled down again, the bottom still looked dirty...any suggestions?

Thanks so much!
~Melissa
 

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Hi Melissa, welcome to Cichlid-forum.com! We are a pretty cool site! 8)

Very sorry to hear about your fish, but the LFS jumped the gun on their diagnosis. Claiming that it's a "fungal infection" without seeing the fish or testing the water, is kind of like telling someone they have cancer because they have stomach pains.

First and foremost, you need to test your water and provide us with the parameters. This includes temperature, pH, KH, GH, nitrates and ammonia and/or nitrites if any. How did you cycle the tank? What filtration do you have? Were the fish eating up until they died? Did you notice any white stringy feces?

What fish did you add to the original nine? How much is a few? It's possible you introduced a disease to your tank through the addition of one, or all of them. This is why a second tank and quarantining new fish is so important.

Let's answer some of these questions and figure out what happened before we jump into stocking this tank again just yet. You may need to take a more careful approach next time, based on your last experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hey there Joea,

Thanks for the reply. Here goes with some answers to your questions...

I just tested the water, and my numbers are more "off" right now then they ever have been. I checked them last about a month ago, and they were all spot on normal. I did a water change today of about 20 gallons.

Ammonia-0-0.25...It might have a little bit of a green tinge to it indicating the 0.25, but I wouldn't say that it is full on 0.25. I hope this makes sense.

Nitrite- 0
Nitrate- 5-10...little darker than 5, but lighter than the 10 color.

pH--8.4 (what it looks like to me) or 8.8 (what it looks like to my husband). This is higher than it has ever been before which is concerning to me, but I also added a bit of "Doc Wellfish's aquarium salt for freshwater fish" today. This is the second time that I have added it, and I have yet to add as much as they say to on the box. The directions say 1 rounded tablespoon per 5 gallons. Last water change I added 2 flat tablespoons for the 20 gallons that I had changed, and today I added 2 flat tablespoons for the 20 that I changed (of which I have only added half so far...but I will wait to here what you guys say before I add the rest...)

Temp: 78 deg. F

Not sure what KH or GH are, so you will have to enlighten me.

Using the hydrometer that I have for my salt aquarium, the salinity is just under 6 PPT and the specific gravity is 1.004. When I have calibrated this hydrometer with the local salt store, it shows up slightly higher than what their super special thing reads (.001 higher). So this may be higher than what the water actually is.

I cycled the tank with the filtration (a hang over the back whisper power filter from my 29 gallon tank and approximately 1/2 of the gravel from my 29). The 60 was doing great with the 9 original fish for close to two months before I added any additional fish.

The tank currently has a pro clear aquatic wet dry system with bioballs and the blue and white piece of filter foam. It has an overflow box with a white circular sponge at the back of the tank.

For the most part, the fish were eating until they died. Usually they acted fine- swimming perfectly, breathing regularly and eating fine until about 24 hours before they died. At that point in time, they would sit on the bottom of the tank in one of the little hidey holes and would be breathing visibly faster.

They did have white stringy feces. I have no idea what this means, but is something that I noticed.

Fish that I added and fish I originally had: Original 9- 3 yellow labs, 3 red top travasa's, 3 socofoli....Fish that I added- 3 red zebra's- 1 typical, 2 albino; 1 ice blue zebra, 3 kennyi- 2 fem's 1 male.

I think I have answered all of your questions, but I am sure there will be more. Once again, thanks for all your help. My tank looks really lonely right now with the one red top and one catfish!

~Melissa
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ok, so I was a bit concerned with the pH being so off the wall high, so I rinsed out my vials really well and retested. This time it was 7.4, which is more what it normally is. Perhaps I added one too many drops last time or there was some residual high pH stuff in the vial from previous tests...who knows. Anyway...7.4...not 8.4 :)

~Melissa
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I searched "white stringy feces" after answering your post and thought I would add a bit more regarding feeding since bloat came up as one of the "issues" that could have caused my catastrophe.

I never seen any "bloating" on my fish...at all! I saw white stringy feces on some of the fish but not all of them. I wish now that I had kept better track of that, but at the time, it didn't hit me as important. I am feeding New Life Spectrum cichlid formula that I was advised on specifically because its good for cichlids and reducing the chance of bloat, but reading the back of this as I type, I see that it has 34% protein, and a high protein diet is one of the causes....I'm really confused now. I generally fed one small pinch of these small (1mm) sinking pellets once per day when I had all the fish. I just counted the number of pellets in my pinch and it was just under 50, which created a flat (no overlapping pellets) dime sized area on the palm of my hand. So about 3 pellets per fish if the cat didn't get any (which he normally did)! For the cat, I drop about 4 Wardley shrimp pellet formula pellets in every other day. The cichlids would pick at these as they floated to the bottom, but the cat is an absolute vacuum and eats all the pellets within seconds of them hitting the bottom.

~Melissa
 

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yeah umm sounds like u might have algae/fungal growth for sure. but you definitly dont wanna dose all the fish the medication as the ones infected need the medicine but not all ur fish so its actually harmful to ur tank to add stuff like that. iodine has harsh effects on fish for instance, yet it is used in many medicines to help cure stuff. just try changing out all filter media, and try cleaning the gravel througholy. also make sure ur cichlids have all the hiding places they need. but ya back to the fungus. the fungus will grow and take oxygen out of the water. try adding a bubbler to aggitate the water further. typically pretty cheap at petco or w/e also get the bubble wall airstone for maximum bubble action. try these steps and let the aquarium cycle fully before adding new fish again. just start off small and when u add new fish try and move the decorations around that way the new guys wont have to fight with ur regulars over territory (everyone isnt used to the tank) u dig? anyways ur discoloration is caused from stress which was probably caused by ur lack of oxygen. anyways good luck to ya and hope u like cichlid-forum
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I dosed the entire tank because I was loosing fish so quickly, and they were relatively healthy looking up until 24 hours before they died. It didn't make sense to set up a "hospital tank"...since the fish looked healthy and then were dead within 24 hours. I literally lost 15 fish in a 2 week period, just about one a day would die. The tank was fully cycled when I added them. I am a newb to cichlids but had a community aquarium up for 8 years prior to switching to cichlids- and used my old filter on the new tank for the first month (+ my new filter) to get the beneficial bacteria. Half of my gravel from the old tank also came over and was in my Wet-Dry for the first month as I switched from blue gravel to black sand for the cichlids. The entire tank is covered with hiding places...so that isn't a problem, and I already have a bubbler with two airstones...one in each back corner of the tank. Hiding places and airstones were both in place during the entire collapse.

The tank got reorganized and "decorated" each time I added new fish...

I tried to do everything that I was "supposed" to with the cichlids....but obviously something went wrong.

Any other opinions on what to do next other than just going slow? I'm going to do that anyway, but would like to ensure that this doesn't happen again!

~Melissa
 

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While "Bloat" is the common name, very often the fish will actually start to look skinny. You were right to dose the entire tank. In a case where a single fish shows symptoms but every body else is doing great, you can separate the affect one and just treat him in a smaller hospital tank. If you have multiple fish with issues and it appears to be spreading, treating the whole tank is your only option. While Bloat can be aggravated by certain foods, it is not caused by them alone. Bloat can be caused by parasites and/or bacterial infection of the intestines.

A quote from the Bloat article in the Library section
Most researchers support the view that this protozoan resides in the intestines of healthy fishes, but can proliferate to harmful numbers under stressful conditions. In larger numbers, this parasite will cause blockage of the intestinal tract. This is probably responsible for the fish's lack of appetite.
I have several cases of bloat in my tanks over the years, and I have never had a fish actually look bloated. They died (or I put them down) before that horrible last stage.

Fish pass it to each other when they mouth the poo (we have all seen them do it) of infected tank mates. One of the reasons it can be so hard to truely diagnose is that sometimes the deaths can be staggered so it doesn't look like a true disease. With the introduction of the new fish, your whole tank had an increase in stress. If it was bloat, i could hit everyone in rapid succession.

You wrote
For the most part, the fish were eating until they died. Usually they acted fine- swimming perfectly, breathing regularly and eating fine until about 24 hours before they died. At that point in time, they would sit on the bottom of the tank in one of the little hidey holes and would be breathing visibly faster.
That is not really the way bloat works. It doesn't kill overnight. Fish will have a decline for a week or two before finally succumbing. The sudden onset of the rapid breathing and sitting on the bottom points more towards a toxin. Ammonia and Nitrite spikes or an outside contaminant are the most likely culprits. This is why having good test kits (which is sounds like you have) is vitally important. As soon as a fish shows odd behavior the water should be the first place you look. If it completely checks out, then move on tho diseases.

When you added the new fish, did you do any water changes between the additions and the meltdown?
 

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how long did your filters and gravel sit between changing from one tank to another?if the bacteria sits for more than an hour(on average)in non moving water they will start to die off,even quicker if left exposed to the air.then when you put them on a new tank they can cause an ammonia spike that will kill fish.it will look like what you described.
 

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Malawilover knows his stuff & gives good advice. Wasn't it also 9 new fish that you added at once? I'm wondering if that was to many to add at one time. How long was it after adding them that trouble started?
 

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Dewdrop said:
Malawilover knows his stuff & gives good advice.
Thank you Dewdrop, I learned almost all from this forum (I'm actually a girl :wink: )

Wasn't it also 9 new fish that you added at once? I'm wondering if that was to many to add at one time. How long was it after adding them that trouble started?
Good point. You doubled the fish load all at once. A sudden mini cycle would explain the symptoms and the deaths. By the time you tested the water, the bacteria had mostly caught up (especially with the fish load slowly going down at the same time).
 

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Malawilover knows his stuff & gives good advice.
All true, except, MalawiLover is a girl. :thumb:
 

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:D
Thanks to Grandma and the suffragettes.
:fish:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hey all, thanks for all the replys. I added 7 new fish at the time, which makes sense that I would have had a mini cycle in there. After thinking more analytically at the situation, I originally added 3 clown loaches + 4 new cichlids but then did some reading and found really negative opinions on that topic...so the 3 loaches went back to the store and 3 other cichlids came home. It sounds like I stressed the tank out to much and led to a complete meltdown.

The gravel didn't sit out for too long from moving water, but it was probably close to an hour when I originally did the switch from the 29 to the 60. Had new sand and a structure 1/2 built in the 60 along with 30ish gallons of new water and then caught the fish and added them to the 60 along with all of the water from the original 29. Finished building the structure and added the old filter to the tank along with gravel from the old tank. Watched the parameters really closely, and I did have a small cycle, but nothing terrible.

After that point however, it was over a month after everything was situated before I added new fish, so the original cycle wasn't the issue, but it may very well have been a secondary cycle. Too much, too fast. I'll not do that again! I guess I never had enough room in my previous tanks to add that many fish at one time, so I had never run into something like that before.

I'm not really sure if I did a water change between the addition and the first deaths... it seems like they were in there for a while before i started having fish die. Wouldn't the ammonia spike have been in that first week after I added the new fish? It seems like it was longer than that after I added the fish until the started dying, but honestly, I didn't keep track of it on the calendar as I never expected it to go this far.

Do you guys recommend using RO water for cichlid tanks? I have to get water from outside my house as we are on well water with VERY high iron content. I used to purchase my water for my community tank from wal-mart's culligan machine, but the pH was somewhere around 6.4...so way too low for the cichlids. I have a saltwater tank and buy RO water for it, should I use the same water for the cichlids? I do sometimes, it just depends on what water I have in the house when it is tank cleaning day...If I don't buy the RO water, I get it from friends tap that is on the city water. It's pH is 7.6ish...and it's free which is nice, but if there is a benefit to the RO water, I can certainly do that all the time too.

Am I safe to slowly start adding a few fish back in or should I wait a few more weeks to make sure all is well with my one cichlid and the cat? It has been 3+ weeks since my last death.

It's nice to see other female fish geeks!!! The saltwater store I frequent never has any girls in it, and if they are, it's seems it is because their husband is there shopping!

~Melissa
 

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ya the heavy metals may have had something to do with it. not only does well water typically have more heavy metals and other harsh chemicals, but urban runoff and such can also deposit harsher chemicals into the underground wells, for instance over at my buddies moms house the local well water supply was contaminated by a nearby dump and they had to pay a bunch to each house due to the harsh stuff in the water. anyways maybe consider getting a bunch of bottled water or something, also well water can contain gases and such that you might not have considered at all. i remember a lot of methane in my buddies well water always stank unless u let it breath in a plastic bottle in a fridge overnight. idk if any of this helps, but definitly look into the water source as part of the problem.
 

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god it didnt even dawn on me... maybe the dose of medicine u put in , which contains more harsh minerals and chemicals, could have interacted with maybe a high mineral content from the well water and caused a chemically unsuitable enviornment.. maybe some sort of CO2 creating effect idk. get the well water tested if you can? idk how to go about that but id check it
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Hey Anthrax

Sorry if I was confusing in the last post...I don't use my well water, I always get my water from somewhere else...either RO or a friends that is on the city's water.... I used to get culligan from wal-mart, but the pH was way off.

~Melissa
 
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